Dates: A nation’s wealth is its natural produce!

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A nations wealth

Ramdan 2016 holidays are over and back to office work is slowly gaining momentum as staff return back from their summer and Eid break.

I had a surprise this morning, when I received a gift bag. At work we are very particular about receiving gifts and have special compliance procedures and code of ethics to receive any.

But, this one was internal and invaluable! That too from a senior colleague whom I respect and regard a lot. I couldn’t resist.

It was a bag full of freshly harvested dates neatly packed in a handcrafted bag made of palm leaves!.

I always propagate a lot about this so far untapped natural resource of the UAE.

The UAE is one of the top 10 date palm cultivators in the world, with dates grown in royal palaces, private residences, public gardens and streets as well as commercial farms.

Date palms are an intrinsic part of Arab life and heritage. For thousands of years, they have provided shelter, food and other necessities, as Arab Bedouins have settled in palm oases, and made use of all parts of the tree and its fruit. Palm wood and leaves were used to build houses, fences, beams, baskets, ropes and many other useful items, while the fruit itself has been a basic staple of the Arab diet, and a main source of nutrition and energy.

How Dates are Consumed and Preserved:

The date fruit is eaten in all stages of its maturity – ripe and fresh (called Khalaal), semi-matured (called rutab) and dried (called tamr).

The dried fruit could keep for long periods of time, so it provided nutrition to the Arabian Desert dwellers long after its cultivation season.

In addition, they used to further preserve it by extracting “dibs” or “date syrup” (sometimes referred to as date honey), thus ensuring that they would have a source of nutrition and energy throughout the year. They also developed novel irrigation methods (aflaaj) designed to extend the oases water to a wider geographical area, and hence increase the cultivated tree area.

Therapeutic Value of Dates:

The therapeutic utility of dates as well as their richness in minerals and vitamins that make them a rich source of nutrition, vitality, and liveliness. That can be illustrated by the words of Allah-

(Shake also to thee the palm-trunk, and there shall come tumbling upon thee dates fresh and ripe. Eat therefore, and drink, and be comforted ;( And by the prophet’s saying –

من تََصَبَّحَ بِسَبْعِ تَمَرَاتٍ مِِنْ تَمْرِ الْعَالِيَة لَمْ يَضُرَّهُ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمَ سُمٌّ وَلاَ سِحْرٌ.

(Whoever has eaten seven date fruits of the high land in the morning, that day no poison or sorcery shall hurt him.)

In 2008, the UAE produced about 755,000 tonnes of dates, or 11 per cent of the world’s production,the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says.

Dates could provide a greater contribution to the UAE’s economy if producers paid more attention to marketing, experts say.

Dates as choice food for healthy living:

Dates have plenty of nutritional values. Some of them are:

  1. Dates have naturally highly concentrated nutrients (due to low moisture content), Small portion of dates is equivalent to large portions of other fresh fruits…… 7 Dates (~40 gm) are equivalent to 80-160 gm of other fresh fruits
  2. Dates do not contain starch, they contain simple sugars only (glucose & fructose)…… These sugars are utilized by your body for energy requirements not to be converted into fat
  3. Dates contain food fibers (soluble and insoluble) which are necessary for digestion system health………. 7 Dates provide about 15% of body need
  4. Dates have extremely low fat content (part of it natural date waxes) and no cholesterol……… No fat associated health problems
  5. Dates are the highest food source for potassium (2.4 times higher than banana) coupled with low sodium content (potassium level is 6-7 times sodium level)…… Better heart health
  6. Dates are rich in antioxidants (natural phenols) which protect your body from the damaging effects of foreign oxidizing agents (e.g. free radicals)…..Protection from cellular level to tissue inflammations
  7. No poisoning or allergy case caused by dates neither directly nor indirectly was ever reported throughout history…….A safe & healthy food which exceeds all standards
  8. No special storage conditions are required to maintain freshness, nutrition value and safety……..Longer shelf life than other fresh fruits under normal ambient conditions

UAE’S export figures for Dates

The UAE owns a third of the world’s trade of dates, ranking first in exports, and second in imports in 2009, according to a study conducted by the Ministry of Foreign Trade on the domestic and international trade of dates.

The UAE exported a total of 266 thousand tonnes of dates in 2009, registering a 12 per cent increase of 28 thousand tonnes from 2008. Simultaneously, the value of these exports also increased by nine per cent from $69 million in 2008 to $75 million in 2009.

Thank you Sultan Al Hajji for this precious gift. His choice of planting a few date palm trees at his villa is one such example of excellent step to keep the tradition and values alive and preserve nature and natural values to the generation ahead. I wish every person take a step to plant a few trees in his or her own land and continue to support natural wealth grow.

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